Bronx DA Falls Behind Rest of City in Fighting Crime, Mayoral Report Shows

By Murray Weiss on January 7, 2013 7:19am | Updated on January 7, 2013 6:03pm

 Bronx DA Robert Johnson.
Bronx DA Robert Johnson.
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Amy Sussman/Getty Images

NEW YORK CITY — A confidential report shows crime fighting in The Bronx is lagging behind other boroughs in virtually every category.

The mayor's “Criminal Justice Indicator Report,” a copy of which was obtained by DNAinfo.com New York, showed Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson fell behind in stats ranging from the number of gun-toting suspects jailed to the conviction rate for violent felons.

Overall, the offices of Queens DA Richard Brown and Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. topped Mayor Michael Bloomberg's charts more often than their peers' units — particularly in categories dealing with incarcerating violent felons.

Brooklyn’s Joe Hynes and Staten Island’s Daniel Donovan were close behind.

But clear distinctions existed between those boroughs and the Bronx.

For example, when it came to jailing people involved in gun crimes, the Bronx managed to do so only 31 percent of the time, compared to 76 percent in Queens and 68 percent in Manhattan.

Bronx prosecutors were also unable to convince Supreme Court judges 47 percent of the time to keep “High Risk Felony Defendants Not Recommended for Release” behind bars.

By comparison, Manhattan had a 20 percent release rate.  Historically, one out of every five of these kinds of defendants fail to later show up at court — and warrants have to be issued for their capture, according to the report.

The Bronx even had the dubious distinction of leading the city with its backlog of felony cases lingering more than six months, and lagged behind other boroughs in felony trial convictions at 44 percent, compared to 94 percent in Staten Island and 73 percent in Manhattan.

The Bronx DA’s “Average Arrest Time to Arraignment” also fell behind the rest of the city. The office took an average of 27.62 hours, compared to 20 hours in Queens.

By law, prosecutors are “generally required” to arraign defendants before a judge within 24 hours, the report says.

The 16-page report, which is filled with graphs and charts, was prepared by Bloomberg’s Office of Criminal Justice Coordinator John Feinblatt. 

The goal, the report says, which was the first Feinblatt's office compiled, is “to assemble data across the system to provide insight into the functioning of the system and ways in which it is changing.”

In a statement, DA Johnson addressed only this important “indicator” — the office’s rate of felony convictions.

"We believe that the proportion of felony convictions should be a percentage of indictments, not arrests," he said.

"A great deal of evaluation, including whether or not to indict, takes place post arrest.

"We are reviewing the draft report and will be speaking with the Criminal Justice Coordinator's Office before the final report is released."

Queens topped the charts overall when it came to convicting felons.

Brown's office convicted 69 percent of all suspects arrested for a felony, followed by Manhattan with the Bronx in third spot.

Of those arrests, however, Queens convicted 64 percent of its cases against “violent felons.” By comparison, Johnson’s conviction rate for “violent felons” dipped to 43 percent, the lowest of the five DAs.

Insiders pointed out that several categories, such as incarceration rates, were not simply the work of the DA’s office — they relied heavily on the work of the NYPD.

And in the changing world of law enforcement, prosecutors have devised successful alternatives to incarceration.  

Mayor Bloomberg recently lauded those programs that try to rehabilitate convicted criminals without simply locking them up

In fact, the report noted that the number of inmates in city jails is down significantly in the past decades.

Other highlights from the report include:

► The “Incarceration Rate” for felony arrests was highest in Manhattan, with a 32 percent of all such arrests ending in jail time.

► The number of arrests of juveniles committing major crimes is down 27 percent since 2006.

► “Operation Spotlight,” a program launched in 2003 to send recidivist misdemeanor offenders to jail, has shown strong results in Manhattan and Queens, where 63 percent and 61 percent of these criminals, respectively, are sent back to jail. Here, again, the Bronx lagged behind the rest of the city, with only 30 percent of their “persistent misdemeanor offenders” sent to prison.

Feinblatt's office is charged with interacting with the five DAs, the NYPD, the Department of Corrections, the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, and various legal defense counsels and criminal service providers.

Feinblatt plans to issue two more "indicator reports" this year, one in July and the other in December.

UPDATE

Under pressure from other media outlets seeking to obtain the confidential report first disclosed by  "On the Inside" Monday, the mayor's office publicly released the 16-page first-ever "indicator report" along with an explanation from Mayor Michael Bloomberg about why they compiled it.

“Data driven decision making is one of the reasons New York City is the safest big city in America,” Bloomberg said. “Just as data helps us reduce crime, prevent fire fatalities and keep incarceration levels low, we believe understanding data can help us work with judges and criminal justice agencies to further improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our criminal justice system.”

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